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Homestead happenings: in love

October 26, 2010

I have fallen in love with fall.

the world's most gorgeous cottonwood tree

I’m in love with the rumpled quilt of oaks draped across the hillsides; or how the trees undress themselves, leafy garments at their feet; or the way the flaming yellow cottonwoods light up the Animas valley like living luminarias. It’s all so breathtakingly gorgeous, this last flare up of life.

I say for the 453rd time to the kids “look at those cottonwoods! Isn’t that yellow amazing?” But their vision is filtered through a micro lens, they’d prefer one single cottonwood leaf in their hand than a forest gone psychedelic through a car window.

The habitat Col built for his lizard this morning surely ranks higher on his beauty scale.

notice the pile of cottonwood leaf steams near lizard's tail - now that's beautiful.

chokecherry leaf potpourri

rumpled oak quilt

The river path that runs through town. The current stunningness is a danger to all bikers, or maybe just me.

A recent playgroup hike. Does this make you want to be 3 again? Why can't we just hike with friends for the rest of our lives?

Rose and her girlfriends and firey oaks

Every week for the past month I’ve been writing this same thing in my notebook: we are sunseekers now, as if this is strange and noteworthy news. This preference for sun started casually back in September, like hey, wanna go sit on the sunny side of the park? Now, we’re like junkies who would deconstruct playground equipment, chop down tree limbs for a hit of sun on our skin. Let me know when coldframes for humans are invented.


Behold. The last, I swear, the very last box of tomatoes:

Which I wouldn’t have even bought if they weren’t 75cents/pound, and if I hadn’t thawed a freezer bag of homemade pasta sauce the night before which became, deliciously, instant dinner, but which also put the panic in me that the 21 quarts of sauce I had put up would not, in fact, be enough until next July. (Somebody save me from myself). And so I called Tomato Dude’s number, scrawled out haphazardly on a scrap of paper by a friend. And the whole thing had this slightly clandestine quality, like trying to score pot in junior high from the random number your older sister’s boyfriend gives you. Next day, dude shows up in my driveway with his boxes of beat-up October tomatoes and his semi-functioning scale and Dan comes home in mid-transaction and I felt like I had to explain.

7 quarts of sauce and 3 pints of salsa later, almost done. I mean really almost done.


So, do y’all know about the crowd of 20-somethings who live downstairs from us? Some details here. Anyway, it’s awesome, they love to hang out with Col and Rose between pilgrimages to the desert for primitive skills workshops, or mango-worshipping in Costa Rica or working their three jobs.

You know how I can tell they’re still in their twenties? They’re so unencumbered, so light you can almost see through them as they glide around, never having spent a minute frowning over a growth chart or trying to insert a bulb syringe into a screaming, snot-packed newborn. They go on long summer roadtrips and report: “It was awesome – just two bachelors and a dog touring the West in a van; we woke up every morning and said, where should we go now?” You just shouldn’t be allowed to say that to a parent.

I love having them on the property: drinking wine while carving pumpkins in the garden, playing bluegrass music on the swingset, feeding Col and Rose curried quinoa.

Gabriella trimming Sage's beard while a smooth-skinned child looks on.

swingset bluegrass

Last week the kids and I were peering out of our upstairs windows and spotted a wild-haired young man scanning the garden as if he had lost something there. Turns out it was a friend of downstairs-dweller Naima, and he was en route to Guatemala, via bicycle. Reid  planned on staying just a few days, but got sucked into the Durango vortex like many-a-traveler before. He stayed two weeks and every morning he’d ask cheerily “do you have any work for me in the garden?” He hauled buckets of rainwater to the greenhouse, plucked copious mint leaves for this recipe, harvested tomatoes and played with the kids. “He’s the best decoy we’ve had yet,” Dan observed. (Decoy defined: someone who distracts children from their parents).

Reid and Rose patching bike tubes.

I pleaded with Reid to stay in Durango, to be our live-in nanny/mint-picker. But he smiled and said “It’s too easy here in Durango.” The kids and I watched him pack up on his last day here, washing the grit off his bike, pumping up tires and stuffing his banjo into its case. The mom in me wanted to know what his plans were, who was he staying with next, where was he headed in Central America, if he had enough food and money.

transportation and gear in its entirety

He didn’t have anyone else, planned, to stay with for the next long stretch into the southern hemisphere, but he assured me he had enough food and money, plenty of time and nowhere to be. Enough money, plenty of time and nowhere to be. Since then, that line has rattled around my brain trying to find a place to lodge. When I was 26, I was shacked up with Dan, a recent homeowner and regularly all angst-ified, scratching out words in my notebook while the word “career” taunted me, dangling around my head like a 2-sided mask of an angel and devil.

I wish my 38-year old self could have poked my 26-year old self on the shoulder and said “Hey, psst, right now you have enough food and money, plenty of time and nowhere to be. Savor it.”

(sign written/misspelled by young neighbors). If you live south of Colorado and see this bike pass through, invite him in for a nice warm meal and remind him to call his mother.

And if you see me, remind me that I still have enough food and money, plenty of time, and the most important place I need to be is right here, falling in love with fall, with these small, beautiful people:

How about you? What would you tell your 26 year old self? Or yourself today?



32 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2010 12:13 pm

    Beautiful photos! Absolutely stunning. I share your sentiment!

  2. October 27, 2010 1:20 pm

    I would tell myself to relax. And to not wait so long to start having kids.
    At 26 I was living in Durango, just back from a year in China. Didn’t bike there. ;) Well, I rode a bike everywhere there, just didn’t pedal to get there. I also became engaged at 26 and married that summer at my Dad’s place up the Animas Valley. We were so broke as I quit work and went to FLC for my teaching license. But life was good. It still is. Even with three kids under five.

  3. October 27, 2010 1:21 pm

    Feh! You think that’s pretty? Those photos are nothing compared to the concrete, graffiti and smog of Los Angeles!

    I go cry now.

    I would have told my 26 year old self to dream bigger and to not be so damned afraid. Instead of coming out to concrete land for a proper “career,” I might have… oh hell, who knows? I’m still figuring it all out, which I suspect I will be until I’m dead. Lord willin’.

    I love watching people navigate unconventional paths, though. ‘Tis beautiful. Go Decoys!

    And girl, you gots some writing chops. I love this blog so.

  4. October 27, 2010 1:40 pm

    I often wonder how the hell I spent my time before I was a parent and why I ever thought I was busy back then. Doing what? Sitting on the couch? Napping? Shopping thoroughly and leisurely for staples at the grocery store??

    I do think, though, that I am glad to trade all that unrealized free time for the three tiny pairs of hands I get to watch hold scraps of gorgeous leaves and stout acorns every day.

  5. Melissa Neta permalink
    October 27, 2010 1:45 pm

    I love this post!

    I’m so glad you fell in love with fall–how could you not with that landscape?

    When I was 26, I was starting social work school because I also needed “a career;” but you know what? I don’t regret it. It was a choice that did and still allows me room to mother, dance and teach yoga–though I would be lying if I said those photos of your young neighbors didn’t provoke a little twinge inside–what fun!

    Except that sometimes I couldn’t enjoy the fun of being young and loose so here I am, 35 with two kids and a Job that is becoming a Career and I actually like it. I feel grateful.

    It’s always good to be reminded that we all have plenty of money and time–did you see I heart Huckabees? It’s a funny movie about existential (sp) detectives who remind their clients, “Whatever you need and want, you already have.” Indeed.

    Dude, I just pumped 9 oz of breastmilk while I read your post and typed this comment with one hand–somehow I think you will appreciate that!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. October 27, 2010 2:03 pm

    Ah…26. Those were the days….Actually I don’t even recall them. Too much time spent on things I shouldn’t be spending time on, like TV…Pretty sad. There’s so much I would’ve said to 26-year-old me.

    I just love reading about your life with your family. It literally feels otherworldly to me. Exciting yet peaceful. And absolutely gorgeous. How can you stand being surrounded by so much beauty?

  7. October 27, 2010 3:59 pm

    ooo, i guess i would have told my 26 year old self to be a bit more practical before leaving chicago? though i’m so glad i left! perhaps i’m not far enough away from 26 to see the bigger lesson…

  8. October 27, 2010 4:18 pm

    Rachel! I envy your fall colors. Here, I find myself gravitating out to the garden, where our largest blueberry bush competes with the smoke bush for the only burst of red-fall colors anywhere as far as the eye can see. Living in a shroud of brown/green/grey is all well and good, but I have been known to drive around wondering to myself: “now there’s a nice color changing tree… why don’t people plant more of those around here, then we’d be just as good as everywhere else…”
    As for what I would tell my 26 yr old self (for me, the free woman is more like 24) I would ask her to write to me. To tell me what her life is like, and what she thinks about things. I’ve only begun to reconnect with her, and I do often find myself thinking: “what would SHE do?”

  9. linda permalink
    October 27, 2010 7:29 pm

    I instantly recogized my favorite cottonwood tree! I’m so happy to re-live the feelings it invoked in me during my few falls in Durango. Thank you.
    Weaving the brilliant fall colors with the bright liveliness of living with 20 year olds is truely beautiful writing.

    By the way, has your class started, yet? If so, how’s it going?

  10. October 27, 2010 9:12 pm

    I’d tell myself to not worry so much about what “everyone else” says about raising kids. I’d tell myself to trust my instincts and pay attention to the rhythm of my family instead of worrying about forcing us into the “right” schedule. (I’m still reminding myself of that sometimes, but not nearly as often.)

    I absolutely love this post. I love pictures of autumn foliage. I was so happy to move where I am now, where we have four distinct seasons, after having lived in Vegas for too many years.

    That river picture is gorgeous!

  11. Jen permalink
    October 27, 2010 10:33 pm

    Hah – based on this post I would tell my(26 or otherwise)self to “get thee to Durango in the fall”. Oh, it is beautiful there!
    Seriously, though, as if that last sentiment weren’t serious enough, I would conform less, and bike to Guatemala. Not sure if uptight 26-year old self would have had the wherewithall to listen, but 47-year old self is starting to unwind and toe the line less. Maybe in another 20 years….
    Thanks so much for this incredibly uplifting post.

  12. ike permalink
    October 27, 2010 11:06 pm

    Wow, we left Durango too early on Oct 3. Great photos of the fantastic colors along the river. Today I was walking in the woods and I listened to a park ranger standing in front of as decidous tree asking a class of young children “Why do trees lose their leaves?” What a good question.


  13. October 27, 2010 11:57 pm

    Oh, so in love with fall. Gorgeous pics. Col’s habitiat made me smile.
    At 26 I was living on a little island in Belize and everything felt exactly in line. Now, what I would’ve told myself at 18 or 30 is a whole different story…

  14. October 28, 2010 12:31 am

    Wow, I barely remember 26 – but I do know what you mean about falling in love with fall. Something about how you wrote that really struck me this evening, as we’ve enjoyed a spectacular October, full of sun and warm days and plenty of color, and ending with buckets of rain and gusty winds. Those yellows and oranges are amazing!

    I have no idea what I’d tell my younger self. That wasn’t a very positive time in my life. Hmmm, something to think about…. sounds like a good writing prompt!

  15. October 28, 2010 1:22 am

    I’m not sure what I’d tell myself then or now for that matter. But I’d surely tell you I love more today than I did when you were 26.

    I’m sorry I’ve not been commenting (or reading) much lately. But please know you, your beautiful family and your moving and poignant stories live strong in my heart and in my thoughts.

    You still have enough of everything Rachel, you always have.

  16. nataliechristensen permalink
    October 28, 2010 10:26 am

    Writing chops is right. I love this post. Love it.

    I was dirty, twenty-something, and bike riding my way around Cuba in my twenties, so I did a little of that stuff. But now, from this penniless vantage point I am torn between telling myself to do MORE wandering around, to take a few more lovers, to eat weirder food and sleep in more uncomfortable places, OR to make some serious money while young and unencumbered so that I could now sit with my girls and make spoon puppets, or nurse, or read three million books while saying “f-you” to career and without thinking i should check email in case some money/money making opportunity might be passing me by.

    And yes, I too would slip in there something about getting to Durango during the fall (or summer). It looks beautiful.

  17. October 28, 2010 10:43 am

    I would like nothing more then to picnic under that incredible cottonwood.
    At 26 I would have told myself that academic insanity is bliss. I was in graduate school, taking 52 credits with three internships that year. I thought I was going to lose my mind. Turns out, I incubated another hemisphere of knowledge.
    Somedays, from the trenches of laundry and carpooling, I would give anything to escape to a 24-hour library and write a 30-page document. I would tell my 26-year-old-self to not focus on the degree-in-hand but the process and love the moment, however busy.

  18. October 28, 2010 10:53 am

    Hey from about minus a couple thousand feet below sealevel!!!!
    Just discovered your blog….we are about as far South as you can get and there is no elevation anywhere near us! Love your blog and when I have time, I am going to come a read some more previous posts…..but, you are right, to be young again and just enjoy the moment….not stressing about where you need to go in life. Maybe that is why the saying “Older but wiser” evolved. As you age, you start to figure these things out!

  19. rose permalink
    October 28, 2010 3:10 pm

    To my 26yo self I would say Relax! Quit worrying and just BE. And I would say the same thing to my 34yo self today even though I am much better at it now than I was then. Always practicing…

    Your town is beyond lovely, as are you. :)

  20. Dan permalink
    October 28, 2010 9:28 pm

    Nice prose Rachie. I’d say to my 26 year old self: “wow, I like this girl Rachel”, but I’d never know she was going to better looking at 38! I just remembered that winter is beautiful too…especially if you’ve got decoys….and you’re at Trimble!

  21. October 28, 2010 9:38 pm

    agh! i haven’t made it there yet, but i wanna play! i think my 26 year old self would tell *me*…
    you think yer old now?!? just wait…
    also – the hike looks like a lovely time. i’m guessing falls creek?
    as fer yer downstairs neighbees – *sigh*.
    hope yer well.

  22. sarah permalink
    October 28, 2010 10:18 pm

    I almost couldn’t read your post today when I saw it was about fall. You see, I live in southern California and haven’t seen fall in 8 years. It makes me want to cry. I grew up in Durango and NEED seasons. But, then, I decided to read the post and… it made me cry. You identify exactly what I am feeling about motherhood. I am that mom in the coffee shop with a crying newborn that you just want to help out!

  23. Jen permalink
    October 28, 2010 10:56 pm

    Just wanted to second Baby by the Sea’s comment to “love the moment”. That is important above all. It’s so easy to think that life will really begin when you get your degree, or you retire, or your baby sleeps (well, maybe that…). Live now, you only get one turn.

  24. October 28, 2010 11:15 pm

    Gah! I SMILED through this whole post.


    Your neighbors and the loving, lovely way you describe them.

    Your writing is so gentle and so strong. Amazing, really.

    Your tomato/pot story. Hilarious that you had to explain to Dan like your mom caught you with a bong.

    Hiking with our friends forever.

    Your mama bear coming on for the Guatemala guy.

    Tell my 26 year-old self? You just wait. It gets better. No, really.


  25. October 30, 2010 9:13 am

    Again with the paradise!

    Asked my husband, “Why don’t we live there?”

    Husband replies, “Where’s the subway?”

    Ah, that’s my husband for you. He likes his pavement.

    What would I tell my 26-yr-old self? I have no idea. She was still in mourning then, and also struggling through the most difficult job she’d ever had. Would she have been comforted to know that it gets better? That she would eventually find love, and a family and home of her own? Or was she too preoccupied with her present difficulties to find comfort in the idea of a better future?

  26. October 30, 2010 6:17 pm

    I would tell myself to go to Durango, too easy or not. :)

    More serious answer: I would tell her to be alone for a little while longer. That that was the right thing to want, right then, and that it would be okay. I would have ended up with a very different life.

  27. La Nai Nahim permalink
    October 30, 2010 8:26 pm

    Oh how happy it makes me to see perfect pictures of Reid and friends featured in your regular musings! I’m glad my itinerant friend could bring so much to your family, to me and to all the good folk he encountered here in Durango. He has a knack of doing that…

    Funny enough, he hosted me in the same way this last spring at his house in Portland, OR (my previous home). As I prepared for a month long bike touring trip from Portland to San Francisco and played in the city for 10 days he provided DIY bike tips, fun bluegrass sessions, random adventures and more, of course. A fair trade I’d say!

    I would tell myself today to enjoy the moment more, relax, enjoy the freedom and independence I still have at 25. To appreciate this chapter of my life and be ok with not having any money, or anywhere to be, and to remind myself that I do still have plenty of time. :)

    Also, I’m happy to be a decoy anytime I’m free, though I’m not sure I can ever live up to Reid’s prowess. And, just so you know (though I’ll try to tell you in person too) I also will be going on a short bike tour with friend Eric, who you may have met, next Tues-Sat, in SE Utah. Yahoo!

  28. November 1, 2010 9:47 am

    ahhh…i am camped out on the couch with the flu. catching up on blog reading and just had to say thank you for this!!!


    as to my 26 year old self…that’s a tough one. i was a mess that year. a complete full on falling apart mess who was sure life as i knew it was over.

    luckily it was. because every year since then has only gotten better and better!!! :-)

  29. suzicate permalink
    November 19, 2010 11:48 am

    Just came over from Rebecca @ Altared Spaces. I just returned from my very first trip out West. I was mesmerized by the difference of mountains in comparison to here in the East. I fell in love with the Cottonwoods, the way the gold glimmered and danced in the sunlight, and the Aspens,,,oh my. Beautiful country. I’ve enjoyed flipping through your blog and pics.

  30. November 30, 2010 11:10 pm

    i should never have left durango.

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